Campaign Finance Reform

a radio commentary by Fred Flaxman broadcast on Jefferson Public Radio's The Jefferson Daily, April 15, 1997
(c)1997 by Fred Flaxman

HOST: Polls show that most Americans think there is too much money in politics. A majority wants campaign finance reform. But there is plenty of disagreement on just what should be done to reform the system. The citizens' lobby Common Cause, for example, favors public financing. But southern Oregon writer Fred Flaxman disagrees.

FLAXMAN: I don't like public financing because I think it is unfair to force taxpayers to finance the campaigns of politicians they don't want elected to office. I sure wouldn't want to see my money used to purchase TV time for a Nazi. Nor would I want to subsidize Ross Perot. That would seem particularly absurd in light of the difference between his financial resources and my own.

I think I have a better idea -- a six-point solution which would be made possible by an amendment to the Constitution:

  1. Limit political contributions to donations from individuals. Totally outlaw contributions from corporations, unions, committees and other groups.
  2. Place a cap on the amount of money any individual can donate to a candidate or party each year. A limit of -- let's say -- $100 per person would assure that wealthy people have no more influence on their representatives than other individuals.
  3. Reduce the tremendous costs of campaigns by providing for free and equal air time on television and radio for all qualified candidates for office. I find it nothing short of outrageous that commercial stations, which are licensed to use the public airwaves for private gain -- but are supposed to do so in the public interest -- charge candidates for public office to use the public's own airwaves.
  4. Limit these free campaign radio and television programs to broadcast within eight weeks prior to the election, thereby encouraging shortened campaign periods.
  5. Outlaw the use of commercial advertising spots for political purposes. Candidates and ballot measures should not be sold like soda pop and hemorrhoid creams. This leads inevitably to the distortion of the truth and the demeaning of the political process.
  6. Outlaw the use of paid signature gatherers to qualify candidates, political parties, propositions or measures for the ballot. This would greatly reduce the number of such measures to those which are sincerely desired by significant numbers of individuals.

If Congress can spend its time seriously considering such unneeded and silly amendments to the Constitution as outlawing flag-burning, surely they can debate an amendment which would take our democracy back from the corporations and special interest groups.

This is Fred Flaxman.

HOST: Fred Flaxman is working on four books from his home-office in the southern Oregon hills. His comments are a regular Tuesday feature of "The Jefferson Daily."